WASHINGTON -- The battle between progressives and Fox News just got hotter. Liberal watchdog Media Matters has hired one of Glenn Beck's key nemeses, a man who has been working behind the scenes (and more publicly on Twitter) for the past year to convince advertisers to drop the right-wing icon.
Angelo Carusone, a 28-year-old Long Island native and competitive debate champion, is a constant presence on Twitter under the moniker @StopBeck. He has leveraged his account to encourage other users to put pressure on companies to stop advertising on Beck's show and update the Twitterverse on his successes. "Today, Helzberg Diamonds became the 302nd advertiser to drop Glenn Beck," he wrote on Dec. 1, a day after he and others repeatedly sent messages to the company. His first victory came in August 2009, when Kraft Foods responded to him and said it did not want to be associated with Beck's brand.
Through the efforts of Carusone and Color of Change (which was acting separately last year), hundreds of companies have told Fox News that they don't want their ads to air during Beck's program. In fact, in the U.K., his show has gone commercial-free for nearly eight months.
"I had been doing the Stop Beck campaign since July 2, 2009," Carusone told The Huffington Post in an interview. "And the approach that I brought to the Stop Beck effort was that we simply have to do something. We've asked Fox News, and in this case Glenn Beck, to be more responsible and they've simply refused. They just ignore repeated requests for responsibility. It's not a matter of me disagreeing with their opinions. And when I did Stop Beck, it wasn't about political disagreements; it was about the willful lies. The lies that are so demonstrably false and they're so aboveboard, in terms of how false they are, that it can only be inferred that they're being propagated willfully in order to willfully lie to advance a personal or political agenda."
Media Matters took notice of Carusone's work and called him when it was looking to expand its efforts against Fox News.
"Angelo had graduated from law school and was looking for work," said Media Matters Vice President Ari Rabin-Havt. "He clearly showed initiative, talent and drive, and there should be a home for that in the progressive movement."
In October, right-wing bogeyman and progressive philanthropist George Soros donated $1 milion to Media Matters (his first-ever donation, as the group liked to point out). "I am supporting Media Matters in an effort to more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse in our democracy," said a statement by Soros. Rabin-Havt insisted that Carusone's hiring was not a result of the donation.
At Media Matters, Carusone will be continuing to reach out to the advertisers of both Beck and Fox News, expand the group's efforts to put pressure on the network and assist with the larger Drop Fox campaign being run in partnership with People for the American Way. "Advertisers need to be aware that they are funding a network that promotes a climate of fear and suspicion that could lead to another Oklahoma City," said Media Matters CEO David Brock in a press release on the launch of the campaign.
"This is going to look for ways to hold Fox News accountable beyond just advertisers," said Carusone. "Fox News gets financial support and support from entities other than just their sponsors, so I think it's important to keep in mind that what we're dealing with here is so vitally important that we want to be able to find other ways to bring accountability, as well. Sponsors will be the first phase, but it will hopefully end up being a much broader campaign."
Beck has never mentioned Stop Beck on air, but Carusone has no doubt that the self-described "rodeo clown" is well aware of him. Beck has alluded to Carusone's tweets and efforts but has never said his name.
When asked what reactions he hopes Beck will have to the news of his new ties to Media Matters, Carusone laughed and replied, "I hope that Glenn Beck will understand the seriousness of this now. That this is not going to go away. It is going to continue to get bigger. And all we're asking is for Glenn Beck to be more responsible. My hope, my dream, would be that Glenn Beck says, gee, maybe I should think twice before I say something so false about an entity like the Tides Foundation that someone thinks they're in great danger -- so much so that they strap on a bulletproof vest and try to defend themselves against the Tides Foundation. So, my hope is that Glenn Beck takes heed."
Carusone's resolve that progressives need to keep standing up Beck has been strengthened in the reactions he has received during his Stop Beck work and when talking with people about his move to Media Matters. A 2010 graduate of University of Wisconsin Law School, Carusone said potential employers at law firms would become nervous when they looked at his resume and saw his work, worried about a potential "Glenn Beck backlash."
He added that he had a close friend advise him to not take the job with Media Matters and stop his Beck work completely out of worries for his safety. When asked by The Huffington Post if he is at all nervous, Carusone replied that such questions and concerns reaffirm his belief that this sort of effort is necessary.
"The idea that just doing something like this would put me at risk for a whole range of things, and that we would even need to talk about this, just shows how far Fox News really is, and just shows how far Glenn Beck and other Fox News hosts are willing to go to advance their own political and personal agenda," he said. "That we actually have to worry about things like that. So yeah, sure, I think there are real consequences to this, for myself. But I believe in this, and I think the fact that you asked that question proves the point."